Going A2A.. feel like a failure


Hey all, firstly, by no means do I want to sound like I'm complaining on this post. I understand how lucky I am to be employed during the time at a reputable firm so please don't take this in the wrong way.

However, I was unable to secure a spot on the buyside despite being at a solid BB coverage group and going to a target. I think there were a lot of factors at play (visa etc.) but I'm not making excuses- I did have interviews and did not convert. Everyone in my class is leaving for PE/HF/Corp Dev and I am one of the only people with my background (target, 3.7+ etc) staying. I often get ridiculed by them for staying in banking as it is viewed much more inferior to buyside esp top HF or UMM/MF PE. This has been taking a toll on my self-confidence/ being viewed as "left behind" in my career as my friends earn a ton and do seemingly more interesting work. This forum also obviously puts HF/PE at a pedastel (which I understand) which adds to my disappointment as I am a frequent reader.

I like my team and am making good money but obviously prefer investing given it's been an interest of mine since high school/college. but have been unable to make the move due to a variety of factors. This forum is filled with some very experienced people. For those who stayed in banking or have experience in PE-- isgoing A2A all that bad? What should I do for next steps?

Comments (67)

Aug 12, 2020 - 6:04pm

In the same boat (kind of) as a now second year analyst at a top bb coverage group. Just haven’t been able to convert interviews to offers even after getting decently far in all of them. Not sure if I even have many places to interview left, but yea just wanted to lyk you’re not alone. Definitely puts a toll on general confidence and willingness to work long hours on a job that doesn’t lead to anywhere

This forum definitely makes ppl think that the jump to top buyside gigs happens to anyone with a target background / good banking group, prob healthy to not check as often

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 12, 2020 - 6:25pm

Guys, doesn't lead to anywhere? Look, I'm the first to admit I'm not in your shoes, but can't A2A lead to BB VP? Then possible MD? Is that kind of achievement really that depressing? Especially since you like your group?

I mean, would you really rather be in "the more prestigious PE arena," where you possibly don't like the people you work with 70 hours a week?

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 12, 2020 - 6:08pm

As a non-american citizen, these were the only funds that gave me interviews as I needed sponsorship. MM Funds tend not to look at people who need visas due to admin hassle. Not by choice buy more by compulsion tbh

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 12, 2020 - 6:10pm

Who gives a fuq what the rest of your class has to say? You need to focus on you—the moment you stop comparing yourself to your peers and compete only with yourself, you will be far happier.

Most Helpful
Aug 12, 2020 - 6:20pm

First of all, if your former colleagues (friends?) are ridiculing you that says more about them than you. As you get older you’ll realize that your career isn’t a scoreboard and being at a HF/PE sure as hell won’t be the reason you are happy. Take it from someone with over a decade on the buy side; it is tiring, it is just a job, it doesn’t make you superior to anyone (sad I have to say this, just to be clear I never thought it would...), and most people won’t give a flying F about what you do (it won’t make you friends, won’t buy you happiness, etc).

A career is important, but a career that makes YOU happy, you hate your job? Find one you like. The path of target school -> IB -> PE, etc is so ingrained in people here, but it is just a path, there are many paths to fulfilling careers that make you happy (and pay well).

You like investing? Then great go actually do it, do it in your personal account, prove it to yourself and continue recruiting. Find the things you are passionate about. Working a job you aren’t passionate about is a fast way to be unhappy and to advance much slower than people around you who really enjoy what they do (ok maybe as much as you can in finance).

I’ve met so many great people outside of finance (not just great people, but successful, intelligent, etc), this “race” to get through life on this track depresses me much more than not getting a KKR interview or some sh*t like that.

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 12, 2020 - 6:56pm

Thank you for the post- I really appreciate it.

What's your thoughts on staying in IBD? Do you think it's a viable option?

Aug 12, 2020 - 7:05pm

Hell yes, of course it’s an option.

Have a good friend who has been in banking since graduating college, did A2A, and is a director (probably MD soon). Has a great life, nice apt in NYC, free for happy hour by 5 PM (sometimes he’s calling me at 4 to get drinks, well pre covid), travels, and generally seems to enjoy life. Does his life get stressful? Yes, as do all high paying jobs. Does he work a ton? Eh, sometimes, but in general it’s 5-6 PM end of day.

What are you going to do with prestige (if you truly believe those jobs are so much more prestigious)? Or more money? I can find ways to spend it, but let me tell you it is on stupid stuff that doesn’t add much to life.

I have friends that have taken 50% pay cuts to enjoy life, at some point some of this stuff isn’t worth the grind.

Aug 12, 2020 - 7:02pm

Totally understand this feeling; we're in the same year and I just got an offer to leave about 3 weeks ago. I spent my first year in banking trying to do a good job and figure out what I wanted to do when all the kids in my class already had offers at PE firms and hedge funds. I spent the second year interviewing at places that I definitely knew I'd be happy at only to get rejected for various reasons (I screwed up, they took someone with a lot more experience, they took someone who started the process earlier, they no longer had the position available after COVID, etc.).

It was hard and definitely disappointing because I always felt like I was behind my peers and started to think about whether I should just give up on the direction I wanted to go in (very interested in a specific industry) and just take another job and get out of banking. Everything ended up working out for me by being persistent and getting lucky, but I encourage you to keep your head up and keep going for what you want to do. You're in a good spot, a great group, a very capable analyst with a very solid background. Plenty of analysts jump to the buyside after completing their 3rd year, and there are plenty of very solid MM / upper MM opportunities that will pop up over the next year that prefer more experienced analysts. Good luck!!!

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Aug 12, 2020 - 9:36pm

I know an alum of my school who had a similar profile- BB, target, good GPA, and kept striking out during PE recruiting, both on-cycle and continually looking off-cycle. He finally realized he was being way too picky (only going after MFs and top UMMs, which is a reach for literally anyone), and also that he was recruiting only for PE because that's what the rest of his class was doing and he wasn't actually interested, and that was showing through in interviews. Got promoted to associate and did some soul searching, decided ultimately that VC is what he was interested in. Was able to land a phenomenal VC role as a BB associate.

You refer to buyside roles in your post, but that's a massive umbrella. You're interested in investing- does that mean PE, hedge funds, VC, or what? Everyone I've known who tries to recruit for various different industries at the same time (ie PE and HF) and just choose the most prestigious option fails spectacularly and ends up with nothing. You need to decide where exactly you want to end up and then take the steps to get there. You want to go into PE and struck out at MFs? I'm sure there are people here with experience on MMPE recruiting as an international, but you need to then focus on that. Interested in hedge funds? Entirely different set of preparation, but once again if that's what you want, just commit to it.

Aug 12, 2020 - 9:52pm

Too many analysts put the buyside on a pedestal without fully understanding what they’re getting themselves into.

A number of the kids ridiculing you will be shocked that PE / HF is not going to open the gates to heaven. It’s a job with its own pros and cons and is littered with the bodies of people who washed out.

It’s always amusing watch analysts think they’re nearing the completion of their BSD transformation because they’re moving on.

I know happy and miserable people in all aspects of IB/PE/HF

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 12, 2020 - 10:06pm

Thanks for the advice. If there are any internationals who have been through the MM PE process it would be good to connect. Admittedly, I have focused on MF/UMM

Aug 12, 2020 - 10:49pm

I was an analyst at a BB for two years and struck out recruiting for PE. I went to a boutique bank afterwards as an associate then got promoted to VP. I knew banking wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do and went to business school to make the transition to the buy side. I’ve been on the buy side for 2.5 years now and love it. I recommend you think of your career over a much longer time horizon. New opportunities will pop up if you stay in the game. You’re in a great seat. So many people give up too early in achieving their career aspirations. Hope you stick things out.

  • Prospect in 
Aug 13, 2020 - 1:58am

I am just a student (SA at a BB) so can't really comment on staying in IB vs PE, but I just want to say that a lot of things in my life ( career and academic wise) in the last few years and probably in the next couple of years will be very dependent on my visa situation since I am an international student and that is something I don't expect my American friends to understand. Most of them obviously no idea about how complex the process. Your friends/colleagues are in a very different position than you and have ABSOLUTELY no idea how tough recruiting as an international is. Please don't listen to them or compare yourself to them, given your circumstances. I am surprised that you got interviews ( Have been told by lots of analysts on OPT that they didn't even get interviews until they got their H1B). I really hope that you get the H1B soon ( if you plan on staying in NY). If not, I have friends who've moved to London and went through PE recruiting there since recruiting timelines are not as crazy as NY and people break into PE at an associate level as well! Goood luck :)

Aug 13, 2020 - 2:09pm

Assuming this isn't a troll post... here are my thoughts. My insight / experience is based on the fact that did 3 years as an IB analyst, then two years as a PE associate, then opted to come back to PE. Story here if interested: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/there-and-back-again-a-bankers-t…

1) The "buyside being more powerful" perception isn't really a thing. At the end of the day, where do PE funds get leverage for their deals? Banks. Where do they get access to deal flow to deploy capital and ensure returns for investors? Banks. Where do PE firms go when they want to take a company public? Banks. The environment is more of a mutually beneficial partnership than a hierarchy. I was under the impression you currently are, but I learned over time that it's not really a thing.

2) You should never feel left behind when you are offered a promotion. It shows that you are valued and deserve more responsibility. You should celebrate the achievement. The compensation can also be higher in IB until you are in the carry (which is at risk capital that can be worth zero). On a risk-adjusted basis, comp tends to be higher in IB outside of mega funds.

3) The grass isn't always greener. I found the work as a PE associate to be interesting and the WLB was a bit better, but you are once again on the bottom of the proverbial totem pole again... paying herald to senior associates on a daily basis. Which, can be frustrating to top analysts who were already operating at the associate level in banking and were managing junior analysts.

4) Investing is FUN and i agree - like you, I thoroughly enjoy investing. I still spend a significant portion of my free time investing and you can continue to do that in IB. I get it... it's not that sexy "pulling the levers to drive value" operational investment, but you can still scratch the itch that way.

Hope some of this is helpful.

Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe those who are dedicated.
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 13, 2020 - 2:33pm

thanks man- this is very encouraging. I agree with the comp part- even MF PE assocites seem to have a tough time breaking back into UMM/MF PE which are generally the ones that pay higher than IB

Aug 13, 2020 - 2:34pm

Your colleagues are assholes if they think you're lesser than bc you didn't get into buyside. Hopefully you as an associate can help create a better culture.

Aug 13, 2020 - 4:23pm

Lmfao, the number of people i know who left BB to do 2 years at a top tier UMM / MF shop doing vanilla LBO's... they get absolutely crushed. The work life balance isn't there, not for "those" shops. It just isn't. The mentail strain needed to compete at that level is MUCH more than at a BB coverage group, bar none.

Half of them will trickle out and do B school --> then something else not in the upper echelon of what you think of right now in high finance. It's just a fact. The pyramid gets skinnier towards the top.

Those that do work hard as hella nd are smart as fuck. If they ridicule you, that says more about their character than anythign else. If they didn't, then you need to realize that there's always going to be that select group of people who are going to grind down this path to the top. It doesn't mean you cant. U just have a dif path.

Aug 13, 2020 - 4:25pm

I can honestly say, that the friends I have who stayed in banking (for whatever reason, didn't recruit well, didn't like the buy side, loved banking, etc) are doing the best of anyone.

1) They probably have the highest net worth of anyone because they haven't had to pivot, take any pay cut, drop $250k at business school (+ opportunity cost), etc. Sure, they might have been making $250k when others were making $350k, but they are in a great position now.

2) They are good at what they do, have high confidence, having built the trust of their entire groups, choose what they want to / don't want to work on. Hours at this point are much better (most now at VP level), stress level is low and they are significantly better compared with the peers who came in as associates (on average).

It's not a bad option at all, and working at a BB gives you huge flexibility / mobility in terms of location preference as well as team / area of focus. I know people who have moved into management roles within the firms, moved to the principal investing teams, or moved to completely different divisions altogether. This aspect of working in an enormous firm is something I think is very easy to take for granted.

Obviously if you aren't passionate about the role and don't expect that to change, then it doesn't make sense to stay in it for the long term, but just sharing anecdotally what I've seen. I would see what type of internal opportunities there are (depending on which bank you're at there may be more or less).

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 13, 2020 - 5:20pm

Thank you for such an encouraging response- I had a couple of questions if you don't mind:

1) I really like investing and have networked with people in PE but did you find that the work in PE was significantly better than that in IB- what really gets to me is I haven't even spent a day in PE and everyone basically seems to say it's the golden route these days.

2) Interesting- I guess base+bonus in IB is very comparable to UMM/MF (ex-carry ofc) and a more "risk averse" path too.

Thanks for putting things into perspective!

Aug 14, 2020 - 1:05am

On the comp part - that's correct. Post MBA (VP/Principal in PE) the differential becomes more substantial, but most of the people I know who went to the buy-side have left the industry post MBA altogether, very few have gone back into PE.

On the first point -- I think it is very fund and team dependent. I've had the chance to work with a few teams (within the same firm) and the experience was night and day. In firms that support you as a junior investment professional, you can get great exposure, be involved in the entire scope of the deal from end to end, drive certain processes yourself (on new investments and with portfolio companies) and it can be a great experience and in my view more exciting and interesting compared to banking. With other teams (and firms), you're basically just sitting in front of excel running numbers. The analysis is 5x more complicated compared with what you would have seen in banking, and the "interesting" parts of a deal are handled without your involvement. The latter tends to be the experience more often at MF / UMM funds (with exceptions of course) and the former the experience at MM / LMM funds.

Banking at a senior level is ultimately a sales role, but being on the other side of the table, you see a huge difference between really strong bankers (who make a process much more seamless) and the old school "relationship guys" who genuinely have very little knowledge of the company or industry but happened to go to prep school with the company's CFO and won the mandate for that reason. Some of the younger VP / Director / MDs I've seen are fantastic with some of the best sector knowledge of anyone, and I wish I had the chance to work with them when I was in banking. By contrast, my banking group had a lot of the old school relationship guys -- they had a lot of fun stories and were hilarious to work for, but as a 22 year old I didn't look at any of them and think "I want to be him some day."

I know it can be almost impossible to disregard what others are saying, but the grass always looks greener. They are both (IB and PE) great roles.

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Aug 13, 2020 - 7:34pm

From the perspective of an intern, I can only assume that you'll be a top Associate. You're familiar with the firm, with the way things work, the folks trust you, etc. You can leverage that.
So as long as the job itself doesn't make you miserable, you'll have a lot to look forward to!

  • VP in IB-M&A
Aug 13, 2020 - 9:17pm

Totally hear you. Just remember:

1) 1st/2nd year associates still place very well in PE/HF/CD (albeit not MFs, but I can't imagine anyone doing banking for 4-5 years and wanting to go to a MF)

2) I'm an SVP now and out of 100% of my peers that ended up doing 2 year of banking->PE/HF at MOST 50% is still in the buyside. Of that 50%, 10% is happy and content with what they're doing. Sure, they feel almighty and high now, but that feeling quickly wears off

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 13, 2020 - 9:41pm

Would you mind if I PM you-- would really appreciate it and hear your experience?

Aug 14, 2020 - 12:08am

I will add the experience of two friends from undergrad who stayed in banking longer than me. One friend moved around a few different BB banks with a pit stop in Corp dev for 2 years before becoming an MD at Goldman. He is now a CFO at a top tech company and under 40. The other friend stayed from analyst to associate at a top BB then moved to a regional bank in the south because his wife’s family was based there. He was able to go eventually go back to his former top BB as a VP afterwards. He did that for a couple years then pivoted to entertainment PE. He is now a partner at a very large private equity firm and in his early 30s. I just share my story and these two stories, because I want you to understand - you are in a great seat. More and more opportunities will open up the longer you stay in high finance.

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 14, 2020 - 12:22am

that's very encouraging; thanks a lot. good to know a non linear path i.e not 2 IB-- 2 MF PE--HSW is still possible in this day and age!

Aug 14, 2020 - 11:10am

Honestly, you sound like you need to become a more independent thinker, and form your opinions/personality.

If I'm interviewing someone who wants to come work with me because his "friends" and some forum he reads have put my industry on a "pedestal" (run spell check, man), my interest level drops very, very quickly.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 15, 2020 - 12:32am


Aug 15, 2020 - 12:41pm

You're in a good spot- just focus on your jpb and keep yoiur eye open. I know a lot of HFs at least look for associates. Not sure bout PE

Aug 16, 2020 - 9:52am

Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind:

I often get ridiculed by them for staying in banking as it is viewed much more inferior to buyside esp top HF or UMM/MF PE. This has been taking a toll on my self-confidence/ being viewed as "left behind" in my career as my friends earn a ton and do seemingly more interesting work.

What? Your friends are terrible. And you already said there were factors out of your control such as visa. That doesn't make you a failure.

Aug 17, 2020 - 5:20pm

Don't underestimate the power of longevity.

“Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power. ” - James Allen
Aug 18, 2020 - 3:44pm
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